As France votes, Hollande favored over Sarkozy

Forty-five million French citizens head out to choose their leader for the next five years in the presidential election.

Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – Voting began Sunday in the final round of the French presidential election, in which forty-five million French citizens will choose their leader for the next five years.
The vote follows seven months of a very hard campaign between incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, of the right-wing UMP party, and socialist challenger François Hollande. The two men bested eight other candidates in the first round on April 22.
The finalists continued to campaign after the first round, intensifying their activity on May Day and participating in a three-hour face-to-face television debate last week that was watched live by 22 million.
Sarkozy and Hollande battled until the end, holding rallies on Friday hours before the official end of the campaign at midnight.
Hollande will vote Sunday in the central town of Tulle, with Sarkozy voting in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, where he lives with his wife, Carla Bruni, and their baby daughter.
The polls continue to favor the left-wing Hollande. But with Hollande at 52.5 percent and Sarkozy at 47.5%, the numbers are now closer, with a noticeable swing after the debate.
While Sarkozy was already being declared the loser in advance of the vote, two important factors are unknown and give him hope: How will those who supported Marine Le Pen of the extreme right and François Bayrou of the Democratic Movement vote on Sunday.
To win, Sarkozy will have to attract 60% of both candidate’s followers, according to Frédéric Dabi of the Ifop polling institute.
Ifop also reported that 16% of the voters are still undecided.
Dabi told daily Direct Matin that according to Ifop’s research, “there has been a wish for victory in favor of the Left for a year and half.”
“Never has an election been so hard,” Sarkozy said on RTL Radio, adding that “there is no room to swing a cat.”
Hollande told France 2 television: “Nothing is completed, nothing is won,” and added that “there are still some unknown factors in the ballot.”
Hollande has secured support across the Left and among other factions; the situation has become increasingly uncertain for Sarkozy.
On May 1, Le Pen called for her supporters to cast a blank vote and attacked Sarkozy, while Bayrou on Thursday announced to general surprise that he personally will vote for Hollande.
“I will vote for Hollande, for myself, in the name of the values of ‘Gaullism,’” he said. This is unexpected given that Sarkozy’s party is the heir of Charles de Gaulle, founder and first president of the Fifth Republic.
The reason is that Sarkozy has been seeking the support of voters from Le Pen’s National Front. “Nicolas Sarkozy has given in to chasing the extreme Right vote that does not represent our values,” Bayrou explained.
Sarkozy’s reaction to this: “That’s nonsense...”
“The choice honors he who made it,” answered Hollande who, sure of his win, also told TRL radio: “I want a large victory. If the French citizens have to make a choice, they have to make it clearly, massively. It has to clearly provide the ability and the means to act. Don’t create a restricted winner.”